1) While early in the season the Fire struggled mightily, the absolute coup of acquiring Mike Magee from the hated LA Galaxy has helped turn the season around. Do you feel Magee might be enough to put the Fire into the playoffs, or are they still a player or two away?
The feeling around the Fire is that they are definitely a player or two away from being a contender. The roster, as constituted, is likely good enough to contend for, and possibly win, a playoff spot, but serious deficiencies remain. Specifically, the back line is one injury or suspension from disaster - the primary backup in the center is Jalil Anibaba, who starts at right back. We have trialed former Fire man Yamith Cuesta but seem to be stalling signing him. The front office has addressed these problems by signing a third target striker. It's bizarre. But, yes, this roster could make the playoffs.
2) Speaking of being a player away - word travels fast these days, and the new Chicago Striker Designated Player is no exception. Even though I don't think we should expect to see him start (or if he does to contribute a whole lot already), what do the Fire fans think of him and what should the league expect to see from him?
I think Fire fans are, at this point, extremely cautious with their expectations for foreign signings. We have signed and moved on more players in the last two years than the Dynamo have burned through in five. That said, Juan Luis Anangono is absolutely the kind of player everyone's looking for - just entering his prime, on the edge of his national team, hungry to move up. I am encouraged by the positive opinion Alfredo Cuvi expressed about him - Cuvi's seen Anangono play in Ecuador, and thinks the acquisition a good one. I defer to Mr. Cuvi and am optimistic.
As to what you will see from him, he's very much a modern #9, Drogba-lite. Strong, mobile, good in the air, finishes simply. I think we will see a tactical shift based around Arangono as the point of the spear in a few weeks, once he's bedded in with the squad. For now, if we get his ITC, you're looking at maybe a 15-minute sub appearance against the Dynamo - he's not in game shape yet.
3) The Dynamo have struggled offensively at times, and have had a few mental lapses defensively every game. Who should the Dynamo worry about capitalizing on those mistakes most?
Funny you should ask that - I wrote a piece this week about the Fire's tactical changes to accomodate the tiny striking pair of Rolfe and Magee. In it, I conclude that their success is largely down to the difficult mental challenges they pose defenders when working together. Both are on form. If your defense has a tough day mentally, Magee and Rolfe will make it miserable - they'll pull the defense apart and finish the simple chances that result. That said, if your centerbacks communicate well and don't switch off, it makes things much harder for Chicago.
Lineup and prediction:
Chicago should run out an almost unchanged side from DC. Dilly Duka is likely out, but Patty Nyarko's gotten over his strep throat, so that's a straight swap there. Paolo Tornaghi continues to deputize for Sean Johnson, who's still with the Gold Cup squad. We could see Danny Paladini or Logan Pause in central midfield, but Alex has played well in the box-to-box role, so I'm guessing he starts again.
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